Kristen Looney is an assistant professor of Asian Studies and Government at Georgetown University, where she teaches courses on Chinese and Comparative Politics. Her research is on East Asian development and governance. She holds a BA in Chinese Studies from Wellesley College and a PhD in Government from Harvard University.
This talk addresses the question of how countries achieve rural development and offers a new way of thinking about East Asia’s political economy that challenges the developmental state paradigm. Through a comparison of Taiwan, South Korea, and China, Looney shows that different types of development outcomes were realized to different degrees, at different times, and in different ways. She argues that rural modernization campaigns, defined as policies demanding high levels of mobilization to effect dramatic change, played a central role in the region and that divergent development outcomes can be attributed to the interplay between campaigns and institutions. The analysis departs from common portrayals of the developmental state as wholly technocratic and demonstrates that rural development was not just a byproduct of industrialization. Looney’s research is based on several years of fieldwork and makes a unique contribution by systematically comparing China’s development experience with other countries. Her book, Mobilizing for Development, was published by Cornell University Press in 2020, and a related article appeared in World Politics in 2021.